WASHINGTON – Former Gov. John Baldacci was once again walking the corridors of Capitol Hill last week along with former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett as part of a delegation of Mainers pushing for action on the federal debt.
Baldacci and Bennett — a Democrat and a Republican who ran against each other for Congress — are co-chairmen of the Fix the Debt campaign in Maine. On Wednesday, they met with members of Maine’s congressional delegation, their staffers and others as part of a “Fix the Debt Day of Action in Washington.”
“I think the message that Rick and I are trying to send … is (lawmakers) need to come together on this issue to build common solutions that are in the country’s best interests,” said Baldacci, who served eight years in Congress before being elected twice to the Blaine House.
“You have short-term thinking that prevails in Washington versus the long-term think that this requires,” said Bennett, an Oxford resident who Saturday was elected chairman of the Maine Republican Party.
Fix the Debt is a nonpartisan coalition led by high-profile business executives and former elected officials pushing for more comprehensive spending and entitlement reforms to address the $16 trillion debt. The group has its critics, however, most notably among progressives who believe the big-money players in the organization are using it as a way to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Although the federal deficit is frequently mentioned around the Capitol, there’s not much of substance happening publicly to address it. The automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration” have reduced the deficit — helping the U.S. credit rating earn a boost last week from Moody’s — but most people agree that indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts are not the wisest way to reduce federal spending.
Bennett and Baldacci were joined by a few “regular” Mainers in D.C.
Mark Gracyk is a Colby College senior who is launching a campus chapter of a group called “The Can Kicks Back,” a pun on Washington lawmakers’ favorite slogan (and seemingly the official sport of Congress) of “kicking the can down the road.”
Nicholas Dambrie, who does real estate in Portland, said Maine’s housing market is “bumping along the bottom now” and that every one-half percent increase in interest rates reduces a person’s buying power by $30,000 to $40,000.
Jean Maginnis with the Maine Center for Creativity said that with the high debt-to-income ratio, there is not enough investment in the “creative industries.”
2ND DISTRICT MONEY RACE
The money race for the governor’s mansion received quite a bit of attention last week.
But campaign finance filings show that at least one aspirant for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s job — should the 2nd District Democrat officially join the gubernatorial race, as expected — is already busy raising money for her campaign.
State Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, reported raising $67,650 during the second half of June, according to campaign finance filings with the Federal Election Commission. Notable names among the donors to Cain include former Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree of North Haven ($500); Adam and Diana Lee of Lee Auto Mall (combined $5,200); former University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude ($250); lobbyist Jim Mitchell of Augusta ($2,600); and former Baldacci administration Commissioner Ryan Lowe ($250).
Neither of Cain’s declared potential rivals in the 2nd District race — Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash and Republican Rep. Alex Willette of Presque Isle — had filed campaign finance reports with the FEC. Both Willette and Jackson formally declared their candidacy on July 1, one day after the cut-off for reporting money raised or spent on a campaign.
Alden Smith, a self-described student from Sangerville, has also filed candidacy paperwork with the FEC to run as a Democrat for Michaud’s seat. Smith reported loaning himself $10,000 for his campaign.
NO LABELS, PLENTY OF HEAT
Michaud and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, were among nearly 70 members of Congress who unveiled a bipartisan package of legislation during an event that had plenty of heat — temperature-wise, that is, not rhetorically speaking.
Michaud and King are members of the No Labels group’s “Problem Solvers” club, which bills itself as a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents willing to work together on major issues. The group gathered for an ill-timed news conference in the sun in front of the Capitol on Thursday, when temperatures were in the upper 90s but the oppressive humidity made it feel like triple digits.
The legislative package announced Thursday included, among other things, applying a “No Budget, No Pay Act” that would withhold lawmakers’ paychecks unless they pass both budget and spending bills on time; a bill to cut federal agency travel by 50 percent and require video conferencing; and King’s proposal for a biennial — or two-year — budgeting system for the federal government.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: